We are not David Foster Wallace
"Kind of incredible." "Pretty much perfect." "I sort of hate it." Etc, etc. The worst writing trend right now (and something I noticed about a million times today, hence this post) is couching every damn proclamation with qualifiers. Stop it, writers. Take a stand or pick a new word. Neither option is difficult.
I don’t write anymore because life keeps getting in the way and I wasn’t great at it to begin with, but I have always remembered my favorite article about writing: Maud Newton on David Foster Wallace. Anyone who is even remotely interested in the art of writing should memorize this passage:
“In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument.
A thousand yeses to that sentiment, and to every other point made in her article. A perfect piece.
"Good points, Pooptron"
One of the best things about the internet is the serious conversation/ridiculous username dichotomy.
This is my favorite example.
This is Very Big News for People Who Don’t Get Outside Much and Take Lyrics Way Too Seriously. Honestly, you gotta love it when braggadocios rap fans get all Morrissey-fan about shit and start taking the lyrics way, way, way too seriously.
Over on Jamz, Max Read talks about how Kendrick started a feud with the entire rap industry. It might be more accurate to assume that poor ol’ Kendrick is just a little stoned/coked up and was havin’ a little bit of fun. Dude also talks about Linsday Lohan in the same song. Rap fans are worse than “Walking Dead” fans.
Details on the BBBS event if you’re curious
As mentioned in the prior post, I was asked to speak at the national Big Brothers Big Sisters convention today. The speech part went fine. The room was huge and attendance was at the max, but they had me use a teleprompter so basically my job was to stand up, read off the screen, and not have a heart attack. Simple enough.
But when I finished and was about to leave the stage, my colleague told me to stay there and announced on the mic that they had a surprise for me. My little bro walked in and jumped on stage, people cheered, we hugged, photos were taken, old ladies cried (not kidding), the whole shebang.
My bro told me they contacted him about a month ago about doing this. He was flown to Denver for an all-expenses paid three-day trip — he’s still there tonight, hanging out with an elementary school friend who lives there. It was his first time on a plane and first time in a nice hotel. He was on cloud nine.
I’m still buzzing from the experience and glowing that I got to spend a couple hours afterwards with the dude since I never see him anymore. Great day, had to share.
Oh and please consider signing up for BBBS. Doing good feels good.
This week’s reason I’m freaking out
Been an insane two months for the Broxey family. New job, temporary housing, moving out of one place and into another, new daycare, tons of stressful work presentations, long hours, plus I officiated my first wedding last weekend.
This was the week I’d circled on the calendar back in March, the week where we could finally relax. All settled. New routines. Free time. No stress. Exhale.
So far so good, until today.
Cut to two months ago. One of my first meetings at my new gig was with the philanthropy team, who told me about their partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. I told them I’ve been a Big for 6+ years, so they invited me to the national conference the last week of June. JCP is sponsoring a luncheon and they asked me to speak for a few minutes about my experience with BBBS. Sure, I told them. My pleasure. Fly in to Denver, fun relaxing rah-rah day, fly home.
Today my philanthropy colleague told me I just need to prepare 3-5 minutes of remarks. No problem. I asked how many people would be at this luncheon and she dismissed the question with a wave, adding “oh, no more than six, maybe seven hundred people.” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s the story of why I’m in the bathroom right now washing my underwear out in the sink.
Kanye as Tweedy: a sort-of review of “Yeezus”
(Wrote this in a flash, hope it’s coherent)
I’ll begin with the conclusion: Kanye’s “Yeezus” is an album for music snobs only. I can’t imagine non-obsessives enjoying it even a little bit. There are no choruses, no melodies, nothing to sing along to, no real catchiness whatsoever. Instead there are sirens, screams, echoing yelps, lots of silence and some of the most vulgar, terrible lyrics I’ve ever heard. I don’t mean swears, either. I mean straight-up x-rated shit.
So, no, casual music listener, I do not think you will enjoy “Yeezus.” It’s not exactly a fun listen.
What it IS: an unbelievably inventive exploration of the medium. I’m talking a full-fledged sonic assault, light years beyond other music, rap or otherwise. Crazy, difficult, challenging, and best of all new.
I’m not sure yet whether I enjoy listening to the album (again: sirens and screams), but I am damn inspired by the effort. I love that Kanye could have gone Jay-Z or Dre on us and released a happy batch of party anthems, but instead chose not to. He chose to continue to reinvent the form.
Someone in a review I read compared him to Kurt Cobain for stretching the boundaries of what’s acceptable and not giving a damn what the public thinks (“Rape Me” as the main example), but in my eyes Kanye — the artist, not the celebrity, don’t give a shit about Celebrity Kanye — reminds me of Jeff Tweedy.
I don’t know if you ever saw the Wilco documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” about the making of the surefire, inarguable classic album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” but it perfectly captures the the music-making process, and the making of art in general. There are two scenes that exemplify Wilco’s (and Kanye’s, and many other ambitious artists) point of view. I’ll paraphrase because I don’t have time to watch it again.
1. After they get done practicing one of the new songs, Jay Bennett says something to the effect of, “If you aren’t careful, everything ends up becoming a folk song.” Perfect. Because the easy-strumming singalong is the simplest thing to do. The hard part is adding other instruments and distortions, et al. If you want to truly challenge the form, you go past the fun singalong. (Note: I love folk songs, but they can’t ALL be folk songs.)
2. Tweedy at one point said they will write a new song, make it sound great and then immediately break it down and start turning it into something new. There’s a scene where they are singing (I think) “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” but this version is a very basic adult contemporary rock song. Pleasant though, top-40 material for sure. They got done playing this song that would have gotten them radio play and sellouts and the mansions and whatever, and Tweedy was like, “eh.” And the final version has this distorted guitar lick and some funky background vocals, and it’s the opposite of a radio hit. The whole album is like that; if they wanted to make it a happy adult contemporary album in the guise of The Fray or whoever, it would have been a no-doubt chart-topper. But they turned their back on it because it was important to them to do so.
In the long run it was just a couple quick scenes in a movie no one saw, but they had a very lasting effect on me in all areas of life. Think harder. Go further. That effort is not confined to music.
That’s why Kanye’s the best. No one shows album-to-album evolution like him. Listening to “The College Dropout” after “Yeezus” is like listening to a pre-teen’s first crack at making music, which is fucking insane because “The College Dropout” is still amazing. It’s better than 99% of music, and “Yeezus” makes it sounds like teenybopper music from a generation ago.
Which isn’t to say I’ll for sure be blasting it nonstop. According to iTunes I’ve listened to it 15 times so far and feel like I’m just getting started. I may end up not liking it and giving up by next week. But already I can say I 100% understand the many critics calling it a masterpiece, and would rather listen to some crazy shit like this than anything on any radio station in the country. It’s a no-brainer.
But again, that’s because I’m a snob. I’ve heard a version of those radio songs a million times, because I’ve listened to a billion hours of music, because for a long time music was all I cared about. I understand why others don’t care about being “challenged” by music and just want to sing along to Bruno Mars. I get why those non-obsessed people think we obsessives are fools with laughable priorities. Makes all the sense in the world.
And for those people, I suggest earlier Kanye. Meantime, I’m diving back in for listen #16.
My favorite thing about going to concerts has always been looking around and thinking that there’s a lot of people in here that are very much like me, a lot of people in here I could have a full conversation with. I might even get laid in this room. You’re not getting laid if you’re standing there with your cellphone.
Buy a ticket, take a ride
BIG NEWS, team: the Broxeys are moving to Texas. I’ll spare you the details but I was offered a once-in-a-career opportunity at JCP, so we’re packing up and heading south at the beginning of April. Will share more details on the upcoming adventure as they happen.
And now let’s all listen to my anthem these past few weeks while mulling over the decision.
Hot tip: freshneck.com
Discovered a killer concept over at freshneck.com: Netflix for ties. Owning ties is for the birds; this it the way to go. I’m furious with myself for not thinking of it first.
There are three plans starting at $15/month and a solid selection of ties (and accessories). I got my first shipment today and the ties are in great shape, so color me enthused.
(BTW I wasn’t paid for this.)